- Climate Change Is Simple: We Are Completely Screwed If We Don’t Do Something Fast
- Solar Power Rises from City Dump
- Community Solar FTW!
- Easy Way to Support More Wind Energy (Plant Wind Power with a Click & GreenerGreenGrass)
- Brookings Gets It, Then Loses It, on Clean Energy
- New Fracking Video from Gasland’s Josh Fox: The Sky Is Pink
- Can the US Reach 23 GW Installed Utility-Scale PV Solar?
- Wind Power Cuts CO2: Fact
- eBay to Build America’s Largest Fuel Cell Data Center
- Cleantech Competition — Enter Today!
Posted: 27 Jun 2012 06:30 AM PDT
For anyone who follows climate science, none of this is new, but it’s very well summarized and presented here. For anyone who doesn’t follow the science, believe us, this is the case… or look into it yourself. Skeptical Science’s The Big Picture is a great place to start.
If you want to read more from David on this, check out his full piece: Climate change is simple: We do something or we're screwed [my TEDx video].
This is why I’m in the job I’m in.
Posted: 27 Jun 2012 05:25 AM PDT
JinkoSolar is going to provide the solar cells for a new 5.75 megawatt solar array that will be built on the site of a former landfill in Canton, Massachusetts. The site had been derelict for more than 20 years, and struggling towns and cities across the U.S. might want to take a look at Canton to see how solar power could help them generate new revenue from abandoned properties.
Clean Energy from Brown Fields
The Canton site is just the tip of the solar iceberg. The U.S. EPA has identified a whopping 14 million acres of abandoned industrial sites (aka brownfields) and Superfund sites that could be put to use generating solar power or wind power.
It’s part of a program called Re-Powering America’s Land, which the Obama Administration rolled out back in 2010.
The initiative gives you a sustainability three-for-one. Aside from generating renewable energy and potentially bringing some revenue into depressed areas, Re-Powering America’s Land is designed to clean up and repurpose local eyesores, and create new green jobs in local communities.
From Landfill to Solar Power
The 15-acre Canton site will be constructed by Gemma Renewable Power. Once completed it will generate revenue for the city to the tune of $16.3 million, representing lease of the property and sale of the electricity.
One interesting aspect of the project is JinkoSolar’s use of a ground-mounted system for the array’s 19,844 solar panels. This kind of “non-invasive” mounting system is needed to reduce the risk of subsurface disruptions that could weaken the integrity of the landfill cap.
It’s also interesting to note that Canton officials considered other options for use of the site. The solar array won out partly because it offered the highest return with a relatively low investment. The fact that it will be up and running within the year is also a plus.
Follow me on Twitter:@TinaMCasey.
Posted: 27 Jun 2012 04:00 AM PDT
Community solar is a critical type of solar that needs a lot more love. Here’s a more on Community Solar from NREL:
Many individuals want to get into the driver’s seat by securing solar photovoltaic (PV) power—but how do you get into the pole position? By using Community Solar.
The issue at hand is that only 22%-27% of residential rooftops are suitable for PV, once you adjust for factors such as the structure, building ownership, or shading issues . The idea behind Community Solar is to allow folks who couldn’t otherwise have rooftop PV to participate in investing in (and benefiting from) a PV system .
To help these folks along, NREL has published “A Guide to Community Shared Solar: Utility, Private, and Nonprofit Project Development.” This revised guide is designed as a resource for those who want to develop Community Solar programs, from community organizers or solar energy advocates to government officials or utility managers. By exploring the range of incentives and policies while providing examples of operational community solar projects, this guide helps communities plan and implement successful local energy projects.
There are three main ways that a community solar program can be structured; choosing one will depend on your community’s unique situation. The three sponsorship models (taken directly from the guide ) include:
The guide examines the benefits and challenges of each sponsorship model and investigates some program variations that are emerging so that program planners can identify the one that best meets their goals and needs. The examples explain the project highlights and financial details—and even provide contact information so the reader can ask follow-up questions.
As Community Solar programs gain increased interest, innovations are occurring that promote wider, broader participation. Policies that encourage community solar include: group billing, virtual net metering, and joint ownership. By examining each in turn, the guide highlights some policy best practices and also considers regulatory changes that could significantly boost community solar installations across the country. The guide then reviews some of the tax and financing issues that impact community solar projects and offers practical tools and tips for communities planning their own project.
So for anyone interested in PV that has been vexed by not owning a house or by your lovely old-growth shade trees, there is hope around the bend! Community Solar can help you benefit from PV as if it was on your house.
 Denholm, P.; Margolis, R. “Supply Curves for Rooftop Solar PV-Generated Electricity for the United States.” NREL/TP-6A0-44073. Golden, CO: National Renewable Energy Laboratory, November 2008. Accessed April 17, 2012.
 Coughlin, J. et al. “A Guide to Community Solar: Utility, Private, and Non-profit Project Development.” NREL/TP-#. Golden, CO: National Renewable Energy Laboratory NUMBER, DATE, LINK
Image Credit: community solar image via Shutterstock
Posted: 27 Jun 2012 03:05 AM PDT
A friend of our network, and actually the founder of sister site Planetsave, has a new website and campaign going on. The website is Click it for Good!, and it features posts that are sponsored by green companies or nonprofits that put extra money into green efforts (e.g. saving the rainforest or installing more wind power) based on the number of times people share the posts via the social media buttons on the top of the post.
Confused? Here’s a specific example (the site’s latest post/campaign):
“GreenerGreenGrass will reduce 61 pounds of pollution (CO2) with Renewable Choice Wind Power" for each click on one of the social media sharing buttons (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, Google+, or StumbleUpon) on this post: Share this link for free wind power – compliments of GreenerGreenGrass.
I think everyone here on CleanTechnica is well aware of why wind power is so good and green. But if you want a quick summary of that, Jan van Voorst (the founder of Click it for Good! and Planetsave) has a useful summary of its green benefits, referencing a few of our own pieces, on that post above.
So, head on over to that post and click away!
Image Credit: wind turbines via shutterstock
Posted: 27 Jun 2012 03:00 AM PDT
Economist magazine itself relates the story of how "Harry Truman famously asked to be sent a one-armed economist, having tired of exponents of the dismal science proclaiming 'On the one hand, this' and 'On the other hand, that'." That, however, doesn't solve the problem if you have several one-armed wonks battling each other, as the Brookings Institution clearly does.
For the past year or so, Brookings has been aggressively trumpeting the benefit of federal clean energy programs, including the loan guarantee program. Back in September, Brookings published a piece, "Why the United States Should Not Abandon Its Clean Energy Lending Programs" that asserts
Brookings also lamented the imminent crash of that funding in an April report they coauthored, titled "Beyond Boom and Bust: Putting Clean Tech on a Path to Subsidy Independence" (the source of the alarming chart above). That report concluded:
Strangely, though, that report ignores both "climate change" or "global warming" and while it devotes a full 20 pages to policy recommendations, it devotes not one single sentence to a carbon price. The phrase "carbon price" never appears.
Now that's schizophrenic because in August 2008, Brookings President Strobe Talbott and VP for foreign policy studies Carlos Pascual wrote an Op-Ed titled, "7 Years to Climate Midnight" that opens:
In May of this year, Talbott repeated the message in a piece titled, "It's the Climate, Stupid!"
Apparently, though, no one at Brookings actually reads what anyone else writes, including their own President (since who could believe there's a lot of stupid people there?).
And if that wasn't clear before, it is now, with the release of their new report, "Clean Energy: Revisiting the Challenges of Industrial Policy." That report basically trashes clean energy subsidies (mistakenly labeling them "industrial policy"). Indeed, it has a whole paragraph pooh-poohing the loan guarantee program. Doh!
The authors, which include two economists, argue, "Clean energy subsidies without a price on carbon may be money down a rat hole" — in direct contradiction to the April report, which endorses a whole bunch of clean energy subsidies while going out of its way to ignore a price on carbon.
Ironically, both reports are misleading in this regard. Certainly, the ultimate goal must be a carbon price, since that is the only way to avert the kind of catastrophe Brookings President Strobe Talbott has warned about (see my post on the first report, "Can We Stop The Collapse of Federal Clean Energy Support Without Talking About Climate Change Or A Carbon Price?"). The International Energy Agency (IEA) noted back in 2008 that just to stabilize at 550 ppm (roughly 3°C or 5.4F warming), which would likely still be catastrophic for humanity, you'd need a price of "$90/tonne of CO2 in 2030." You need a 2030 CO2 price of "$180/tonne in the 450 Policy Scenario."
But we don't have a carbon price, and until we do, arguing against clean energy subsidies seems perverse if one is at all concerned about climate change, which Brookings is, except when it isn't.
It really seems a waste of time to debunk this nonsensical report — you can just read everything else Brookings has written on the subject.
Still, the confused report is already being used by the media to confuse the issue. For instance, the Washington Post used the report as the basis of an equally nonsensical piece by one of its editorial writers, " 'Clean energy' is money wasted."
So let me focus on two of the sillier things in this report. The authors do understand that the political support for a carbon price hasn't been there, but they are exceedingly confused about what the implication of that is (or should be) for clean energy policy:
No, no, and no.
I helped oversee a large chunk of the federal RD&D effort on low-carbon technology for a few years in the 1990s. There is no question that it's important to invest in technologies with a high probability of market penetration. But that isn't the same thing as the lowest expected cost of abatement. The technologies with the lowest abatement cost are almost entirely in the energy efficiency realm.
But a great many efficient technologies are cost-effective now (see "Energy efficiency is THE core climate solution. Part 1: The biggest low-carbon resource by far"). Their main barrier to marketplace penetration isn't price (or at least not price alone,) it is generally something else, as has been very well known in the field (yes, I understand that most mainstream economists don't believe there are a great many money-saving technologies being ignored by companies and individuals, but there are and that's probably why no one should be paying attention to what most economists have to say on the subject). Their barriers tend to have to do with utility regulations that only allow utilities to make money by selling more of their product and the fact that many people don't own the buildings they live or work in, which makes it hard for many people to capture the benefits of efficiency and so on.
Second, a key point of federal investment is precisely to help those technologies that aren't close to being commercial. The private sector and the venture capital community are putting billions of dollars every year into the near-commercial technologies. That doesn't mean they aren't missing some bets that government should place in that arena. But it does mean that the government needs to place riskier and longer-term bets than the private sector would.
Third, solar power is not a sector that is projected to have one of the lowest market shares. Quite the reverse — it'll be a major winner. And solar has been dropping in price very rapidly precisely because of federal investments and subsidies. Also, solar PV generally compete with retail rates so even with a higher cost it is still seeing accelerating market perpetration (see "Three Charts That Illustrate Why Solar Has Hit A True Tipping Point"). Brookings discussion of solar's market potential here is several years out of date. Quoting EIA on renewable energy projections or anything else is laughable. EIA is notoriously poor at predicting the future of anything to do with energy — oil prices, natural gas prices, solar or wind prices.
I would add that batteries and electric cars are indeed expensive now. But better batteries are an enabling technology, and electric cars are a primary strategy for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the transportation sector, which otherwise is considered to be a very high-cost source of emissions reductions (other than improvements in efficiency). Again, if the federal government only pursues the same technologies that the private sector focuses on — the low cost, near-commercial technologies — it would be wasting a lot of its money in duplication while ignoring key technologies that will be needed post-2030 when we have to take global emissions very sharply down.
So Brookings has failed to make a compelling argument that somehow current RD&D policy is so flawed or politically tainted as to render it unjustifiable.
Since I have a book on communications coming out in 2 months with an entire chapter on irony I feel compelled to point out that this is not ironic. It is almost the reverse of irony — it is literally true.
It isn't ironic that many clean energy subsidies will succeed in deploying new technologies only after incorporating the social costs of energy into market prices. It is the primary rationale for having those subsidies until we get the carbon price.
To be clear, we are in fact talking about a two-phase process. Yes, we should have a carbon price. But we don't. Because of the dire nature of the climate problem, the federal government needs to have an aggressive clean energy RD&D effort (along with efforts to reduce marketplace barriers) until the point that we do have a high and rising cost of carbon.
What's ironic is that Brookings seems to be run by people who understand how dire the climate situation, people who understand that "It's the Climate, Stupid!" but they keep publishing reports that don't understand this at all.
Again, their President wrote 4 years ago:
And the science has only gotten more worrisome in recent years (see "An Illustrated Guide to the Science of Global Warming Impacts: How We Know Inaction Is the Gravest Threat Humanity Faces").
In a world requiring "urgent and drastic action" where "the United States must take the lead" so we don't see "vast regions slide toward being uninhabitable," low-carbon energy is going to be the biggest job-creating industry, and it is absurdly ironic that Brookings would release a report arguing against federal clean energy investment. Except of course, they released a report two months saying the exact opposite. Where is Harry Truman when you need him?
Posted: 27 Jun 2012 02:30 AM PDT
Here’s a quick prelude to that from Brendan DeMelle of DeSmog Blog, with the video at the end:
The Sky Is Pink: New Josh Fox Video On Fracking Controversies in New York (and Much More) (via Desmogblog)
Gasland director Josh Fox is back with a must-watch new short video taking a look at the controversy in New York where Governor Andrew Cuomo is considering plans to lift the state’s moratorium on hydraulic fracturing (fracking) for unconventional gas. But it’s much more than just a local story. Fox…
Posted: 27 Jun 2012 02:10 AM PDT
There's no question the outlook for solar power in America is incredibly bright, but if a new forecast holds true, we all may need a new pair of sunglasses.
PV Plants Map USA 2012, a new analysis from PV Insider, reveals a staggering 23 gigawatts (GW) of current and potential utility-scale photovoltaic solar (PV) capacity across the United States. By listing the location, developer, size, and power purchaser of each project, this analysis represents a clear route toward America's clean energy future.
The map details over 200 utility-scale PV solar plants currently operating, under construction, or planned for construction, and was commissioned as part of an overall effort for solar developers to optimize performance and drive down the levelized cost of energy.
Utility-Scale Solar PV Power Plants in Operation
Currently, 46 utility-scale PV plants are in operation across 13 states, totaling 865 megawatts (MW). California leads the way, with nine plants generating 185 MW, but Arizona and New Mexico follow close behind, with 7 plants generating 135 MW and 7 plants generating 125 MW, respectively.
Utility-Scale Solar PV Power Plants Under Construction
When the capacity of utility-scale solar PV plants under construction is added to the total, America's solar capacity vaults up by an order of magnitude. 28 plants are under construction across 10 states, and will generate 2.9 GW (2,900 MW) once all are operational (most are expected to come online by 2014). California represents an overwhelming amount of this new capacity, with 12 plants representing 2.2 GW of new capacity.
Utility-Scale Solar PV Power Plants Under Development
However, the total amount of utility-scale PV in the development pipeline is the truly outstanding aspect of this analysis. 120 plants representing 19.2 GW are being developed across 21 states. Once again, California leads the way with 62 plants totaling 11.6 GW of capacity. Nevada may build 14 plants totaling 2.7 GW of capacity, and Arizona could be home to 10 new plants totaling 1.3 GW of capacity.
Of course, some of these plants won't make it to the operational phase, but what if they did? The Solar Energy Industries Association's Q1 2012 market report found 4.9 GW of cumulative installed solar electric capacity across the country – including all solar PV and concentrating solar power (CSP) facilities and small-scale installations.
A recent analysis forecasts that if the overall US solar industry simply maintains its 2012 rate of new installations, America would have 17.7 GW installed solar by the end of 2015.
It's naïve to think skittish investors, regulatory and transmission shortfalls, or local environmental concerns won't waylay the full list of utility-scale PV plants currently in development. But for every new plant that goes online, utilities lower the cost of generating electricity, reduce emissions, and decrease utility bill variability.
For those goals alone, the PV Insider map should stand out as an action list of solar projects to support through advocacy and investment.
Image Credit: PV solar panels via Shutterstock
Posted: 27 Jun 2012 02:00 AM PDT
However, after getting into cleantech blogging, I learned that was completely false. Of course, I also learned a lot more about the cleantech misinformation machine that spreads this lie and so many others to try to stop the clean energy revolution, or at least slow it.
Now, the excellent post below is for anyone who hasn’t learned yet that wind power does in fact produce more than enough clean energy to have a very positive effect on the global climate (that is, to reduce CO2 emissions from other energy sources, and thus, reduce global warming). It’s got some other interesting and useful information in it as well. Here’s the full repost, from Skeptical Science:
Adding wind power saves CO2 (via Skeptical Science)
Posted on 21 June 2012 by MarkR Over the past decade, engineers and scientists have studied questions about the effectiveness of wind farms. They found that turbines produce much more energy than they take to build and that even though wind needs backup power stations for when it’s calm, they still…
Posted: 27 Jun 2012 01:58 AM PDT
Global concerns about climate change, dependence on oil imports and increasing oil prices have brought renewable energy onto the centre stage of various data centers across the world. Taking this into consideration, online giant eBay has planned to power its main data centre in Utah primarily with renewable energy.
In partnership with Bloom Energy, eBay plans to install 30 large-scale fuel cells called Bloom Energy Servers powered by biogas. The new fuel cells will have an aggregate capacity of 6 MW and are able to provide enough power to operate eBay's data center, though the power required for backup will still come from conventional energy from the grid. The facility will be the largest non-utility fuel cell installation in the United States.
Bloom Energy Severs will be installed few hundred feet away from the data center and thus power losses from grid disruption will be virtually eliminated. Fuel cells can generate power 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and they thus replace the need for UPS and backup generators. Each server is expected to generate 1.75 Million kWh annually.
"We believe the future of commerce can be greener,” said John Donahoe, President and CEO of eBay. “Technology-led innovation is changing retail and revolutionizing how people shop and pay. We also want to revolutionize how shopping is powered. We are embracing disruptive energy technology and designing it into our core data center energy architecture. Running our data centers primarily on reliable, renewable energy, we intend to shape a future for commerce that is more environmentally sustainable at its core.”
The fuel cells are expected to serve about 15% of the eBay's total energy needs and the system will be made operational by the middle of next year.
This new Bloom Energy project will be eBay's largest renewable energy installation so far. eBay operates a 650-kilowatt solar array and a 500-kilowatt Bloom fuel cell installation at its San Jose headquarters, as well as a 100-kW solar array at its Denver data center. The company has also recently installed a 665-kW solar array on the roof of its LEED-certified Utah data center.
EBay is not alone in making announcements for going green with its data centre. Similar or more impressive announcements have been made by Apple, Microsoft, and Google in the past few months and even years, especially after the global pressure created by Greenpeace Campaign 'How clean is your cloud'.
Data centers now consume about 1.3% of all global electricity. They are amongst the major consumers of energy. Therefore, they have the potential to help tremendously in saving fossil fuels and protecting the environment by reducing carbon emissions.
Image: Bloom Energy
The views presented in the above article are author's personal views only.
Posted: 26 Jun 2012 01:47 PM PDT
Green Machine: Saint-Gobain’s NOVA Innovation Competition Taps American Startups in Green Construction (via Ecopreneurist)
Saint-Gobain, the world's largest building materials company, has partnered with the U.S. Green Building Council – Northern California Chapter (USGBC-NCC) to co-present the company's NOVA Innovation Competition. The startup competition rewards startup greentech and cleantech businesses around…
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